The chief of the World Health Organization (WHO) said it is “morally imperative” to find the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused millions of deaths worldwide as Beijing continues to obfuscate sharing crucial data with the world.
Marking three years into the pandemic, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Saturday that “all hypotheses” around COVID-19 must be explored in order to prevent future outbreaks.
“Understanding #COVID19’s origins and exploring all hypotheses remains: a scientific imperative, to help us prevent future outbreaks [and] a moral imperative, for the sake of the millions of people who died and those who live with #LongCOVID,” he said on Twitter.
Tedros said the WHO would continue to push for equitable access to life-saving tools for all countries.
The People’s Vaccine Alliance, a coalition of over 100 organizations, issued a joint letter on Saturday calling on world leaders to reflect on mistakes made in responding to the pandemic and take immediate corrective actions.
The coalition said that instead of rolling out vaccines based on need, pharmaceutical companies maximized their profits by selling doses to the richest countries first, leaving billions of people in low and middle-income countries behind.
“Had the governments listened to the science and shared vaccines equitably with the world, it is estimated that at least 1.3 million lives could have been saved in the first year of the vaccine rollout alone, or one preventable death every 24 seconds,” the statement reads.
“We have been here before. At the height of the HIVAIDS pandemic, millions died as expensive, patented treatments were unaffordable for much of the world,” they added.
Three years have passed since WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic in March 2020, and questions still linger over the virus’s origins as China has yet to share relevant data with independent investigators.
Tedros had previously urged any countries with information on the COVID-19 origins to come forward after several U.S. officials said it was most likely that the virus had been leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan, China.
In late February, FBI Director Christopher Wray told Fox News that the bureau has determined that the COVID-19 pandemic’s source was “most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan,” China.
Wray noted that the bureau’s investigation is still classified and that he can’t share many details. He also said the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) hasn’t been cooperative with U.S. efforts.
“I will just make the observation that the Chinese government, it seems to me, has been doing its best to try to thwart and obfuscate the work here,” Wray said. “The work that our U.S. government and close foreign partners are doing. And that’s unfortunate for everybody.”
The very first COVID-19 infections were recorded in late 2019 in Wuhan. The CCP did not admit human to human transmission of the virus until January of 2020, when officials claimed the virus was first transmitted in a wet market in the city—a theory for which there has since been no evidence to support the claim.
A team of WHO investigators was blocked by the CCP from investigating the origins of the virus in 2021.
WHO Calls for Transparency from China
Tedros said in February that the WHO wasn’t looking to blame any government or organization but rather to “advance our understanding of how this pandemic started so we can prevent, prepare for and respond to future epidemics and pandemics.”
“WHO continues to call for China to be transparent in sharing data and to conduct the necessary investigations and share the results,” said Tedros, who has drawn criticism for having ties with the CCP. “Until then, all hypotheses on the origins of the virus remain on the table.”
Earlier on in the pandemic, the WHO came under criticism after Tedros and other officials praised the CCP for its “transparency” in dealing with COVID-19.
“What they are doing is a very, very strong measure and with full commitment,” Tedros said of the regime in early 2020, weeks after the virus emerged.
Jack Phillips contributed to this report.